I walked away.
Opportunity and I had suffered a disappointment. We had shown up for a writing class but the teacher wasn't there. We aspiring authors sat in our rows, patiently waiting while a woman at the front of the room explained the teacher was held up in traffic. Then she said he couldn’t come at all, assuring us he would reschedule or we could get a refund. People started leaving. That was when Opportunity shouted from behind me.
“Maybe we could all get coffee at Bodo’s,”* the woman behind me shouted to the woman in front, because this incarnation of Opportunity was a writer. A proactive, community-minded writer. A writer who wanted to network with other writers.
“Hey," she said, but the woman in front was answering other people's questions. “Maybe we can get people to meet at Bodo’s to talk about how to get published.”
A woman in front of me shouted back that she would go. I was in the middle of the conversation, between these proactive, networking writers, and still managed to slink out of making any connections.
The woman who had first had the idea, the Great Initiator, shouted her invitation to the room. The woman in front of me said some encouraging words, something along the lines of “That will get their attention.”
She had my attention. I knew, somewhere in my mind, that networking with other writers was a good idea. And yet I had a headache. I hadn’t had a full eight hours of sleep the night before. I thought back to the last time I had coffee with a group of writers, when we talked about submitting our stories, discussed what was playing on Broadway, and planned a trip we pretended we might take to New York. That took hours, but it also led to the formation of a writing group. That networking was worth it.
If I had gone to yesterday’s class with an open mind, I could have learned a lot. I don’t know what I could have learned, and that’s why I may never be able to make up for what I missed out on. Those two writers who wanted to have coffee, and anyone who went with them, know things I don’t know. They have had experiences I have never had. I could have learned from them. I lost an opportunity.
I was intimidated. What if they were above my level? What if I had nothing smart to say? What if they were so advanced I didn’t know what they were talking about?
Or the opposite? What if they were totally green and had never written an intelligible sentence? What if they had no knowledge to share?
I was wrong to have either concern. At worst, I would have lost a couple hours. If I ended up feeling stupid, that would mean I could learn from the smart people around me. No matter what, I would have had a cup of delicious Bodo’s coffee.
My problem was that I went to class with the wrong mindset, that of a lazy student, an empty vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge from the teacher. The writer who wanted to organize students into a meeting had the right idea, a willingness to contribute instead of passively listen. Next time I’ll try to come better prepared.
*Those were not her exact words. More of an approximation.